Becoming a carer for elderly parents is now much more common than it was a few generations ago, due to our extended lifespans. In fact, where I live, in Australia, there are now 2.7 million unpaid carers, from a population of about 24 million people. This means around 856,000 carers (32%) are primary carers, those who provide the most informal assistance to another individual; a very essential role.
As our parents get older, they often become less independent and have more needs. Caring for our elderly parents isn’t a role reversal that anyone particularly cherishes, but it’s one that everyone will step up to the plate for, because we feel a sense of duty, as well as deep love.
Remember that for elderly parents to give up their independence, it’s a big deal. They don’t want necessarily to rely on you, so it makes sense that you would want to do everything you can to make the transition a smooth one all around.
“I can clearly remember the day when I finally woke up to the fact that I had a full-time job as a caregiver,” says Carol Bradley Bursack, author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.
“Even though, technically, I wasn’t “working” at the time. Had I had more family caregivers to communicate with, I may have realised earlier how much my caregiver role had slowly overtaken my life,” the expert says.
Carol reminds carers to do a few things:
- Get support from other caregivers
- Ask people “in-the-know” what they did that worked
- Ask them what they’d do differently
- Take a look at your boundaries
- Do extra soul searching
- Get help from professionals
- Look inward to yourself, as much as outward to your loved one
Here are 4 things to do when becoming a carer for elderly parents
#1: Make a plan
Before your parents move in with you, you need to make space for them to sleep and relax. Consider investing in proper aged care furniture to make it far easier for them to get around and consider how much you will need to think about giving them as much independence as possible while living with you. When becoming a carer for elderly parents, converting the basement or garage into an annex that is easier for them to use should be a consideration, as you can look after them without compromising your own living style.
#2: Care for you
As Carol says, carers need support as much as those needing cared for do. Seeking out the right help so that you can feel adequately supported is so important, so don’t knock it when it comes to having nurses or other carers come into the house to give you some relief. Try to book the same nurses and carers, so that your parents have consistency in their care plan. It’s a stressful time to care for someone else, so don’t put it all on your shoulders.
#3: Feel your feelings
It can be very stressful to be a carer, and not just for you. When parents lose their independence, they can find it very hard to adjust to being under your watchful eye. This can and does stir up feelings of resentment and pain on their behalf. They’re not trying to be difficult, they just want to feel like they still have a life. Make sure that you find an outlet for your feelings and try not to take those out on your parents. Often, they can’t help it – they have feelings, too. So, when becoming a carer for elderly parents, think of this.
#4: Consider security
Many people who move their parents in with them forget to consider security. Panic alarms in bedrooms and bathrooms, ramps built on for wheelchairs and installing chair lifts and support bars are all the best ways that you can be secure in your home together. You can rest easily, knowing that an alarm can be pulled if a fall in the bathroom happens and your parents can be more secure knowing that you are looking after them.
Being a carer can be very rewarding
Moving parents into your house is going to be a big adjustment. Make it an easier one all around to help you to appreciate each other better. When you are considering becoming a carer for elderly parents, make sure you “look after yourself” too.